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Denver Startup Week seeks proposals for 2016 event

Calling all entrepreneurs! The nation's largest free entrepreneurial event, Denver Startup Week, is seeking your proposals for its fifth annual event. The event, which takes over the heart of Denver's innovation and business incubation centers like The Commons on Champa and Galvanize, is being held Sept. 12-16, 2016.

Now is your chance to influence what will be discussed at this year's event by submitting a session proposal, but hurry up: Organizers are accepting submissions through June 15.

The event, which began in 2012 has quickly ballooned. Last year 10,875 people registered to attend 235 sessions, explains event coordinator Brea Olson of the Downtown Denver Partnership. "We are expecting to exceed that number this year," she adds.

"We continue to look for quality and diverse sessions across all of our tracks: Founder, Growth, Designer, Developer, Maker, and Product," Olson says. "We’re also looking for sessions that appeal to a range of industries and at various stages of business."

Denver Startup Week has received more than 200 proposals for sessions for the 2016 event. "Last year, we had more than 520 total submissions and we are looking to meet or exceed that number again this year," Olson asserts.

"We will open up voting to finalize the program in the coming weeks," Olson says, explaining the next steps. People can register to attend the free events starting in August.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Innovators take on improving schools with Startup Weekend Education

Startup Weekend Education (SWEDU) is aimed at improving education and schools by harnessing the power of innovation to create new tools, learning models and schools of thought. University of Denver hosted SWEDU from June 10 to June 12.

The Happy team won first place at the event and three tickets to SXSWEDU in 2017. The team is focussed on creating a way to help students communicate their emotional state. It also will allow teachers and administrators to track student emotions and understand how they tie into incidents and the school's culture. The team also tied for the people's choice award with Youprentice, to match underserved students with paid apprenticeships. Teachify took second place overall and Syllabusy took third. Teachify is tackling boring online education and Syllabus is working to help freshmen manage their time better. 

"The focus of the weekend is about tackling challenges in education -- it is also about breaking down the walls of communication that sometimes exist between these groups, connecting them with one another, and letting them experience the process of entrepreneurship together," explains Katy Kappler, co-founder and president of Crafted Education, one of the event's organizers.

"SWEDU embraces education in the broadest sense, including ideas focused on early childhood, K-12, higher ed and continuing education, professional learning, et cetera," Kappler says. "It is focused on bringing together individuals from across the education spectrum -- including students, educators, administrators, developers, designers and entrepreneurs who have a passion for improving the education space."

"We welcome solutions to any educational challenge. We have intentionally left this open, so the diversity of participants is wide," says Lauren Almon Dietz, school happiness ambassador for Schoolrunner, another organizer. "Any idea with the intention to promote education and learning is fitting."

The project is intentionally open to solution types, Dietz explains. Teams created apps, programs, toys, robotics or other things to address issues in learning. In such an event, "Teams will form around an idea and participants will be grouped based on team needs," she says. "For example, if an educator pitches an idea for an app and we have a developer without a team, they will be grouped together. We also have mentors with diverse backgrounds coming who can provide general feedback on the idea and business direction."

The three best solutions that come out of the weekend received free or discounted access to 4.0 Schools Essentials Denver, according to Kappler. "All three teams are guaranteed an interview with the AT&T Aspire Accelerator." Other awards included a people's choice award and a Pearson Learning mentorship package award for the Best Solution for Higher Education Learning Design.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Junior Achievement hosting mocktail hour

To prepare young people for careers Junior Achievement-Rocky Mountain (JA) is hosting a mocktail event at The Curtis Hotel on June 8. The event will give more than 200 students from across Colorado a chance to participate in an event like a networking event to practice networking skills.

"JA provides programs for students which focus on entrepreneurship, financial literacy and work readiness. The goal is to teach concepts through experiential learning, allowing young people to put their new knowledge and skills into practice," explains Kim McGrigg, JA spokesperson.

"JA Business Week is one of our most in-depth and impactful programs; however we do offer many other K-12 programs," McGrigg says. "With the help of 6,000 volunteer role models, JA reached 136,000 local students this school year. Of those students, 44 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch."

The mocktail event is part of JA Business Week. The organization's aim is to prepare today's students for professional careers.

"Students who are returning to JA Business Week for the second or third time participate in the mocktail event," explains McGrigg. "There, they will learn the fine art of 'working a room' as they network with 25 volunteers from the business community."

During the week, which runs June 5-10, McGrigg explains that students will go to volunteer-led workshops. "For example, they attend a personal branding session as well as a networking/relationship-building workshop," she says, to help prepare them for the event.

Students attending JA Business Week for the first time will attend an etiquette dinner at The Curtis. "During the three-course meal, they learn about dining etiquette from a speaker with JDW Cotillion," McGrigg says.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Posner Poverty Hack comes back for second year

Launched in 2015, the Posner Poverty Hack, a 2.5 day-hackathon aimed at fighting global poverty issues, brings teams together to address issues of poverty. This year's event will focus on creating solutions for three of the Posner Center's organizations: the Africa Agenda, Starfish and The Women's Bakery.

"The challenges are informed by the expressed needs of these communities and we're actively working alongside these communities to support the development of meaningful solutions," explains Posner Center Director Meg Sagaria-Barritt. "We're looking for people with skills in tech, education, database development, entrepreneurship and much more," she says.

The Africa Agenda is challenged with a new digital strategy and news service to change the way people understand, talk about, and interact with Africa. The organization wants to engage African communities and the inform the public with African news and information. Starfish is focused on empowering young women in Guatemala to lead transformational change. It wants to develop a platform to monitor and evaluate their holistic educational and empowerment program. The Women's Bakery (TWB) operates in East Africa where it provides opportunities for women based on a nutritious bakery business model, training, and long-term development opportunities. It wants to develop a mobile application to support local bread sales, enhance safety for sellers and increase accountability and professionalism.

The hackathon will be held at Denver's Posner Center July 10-12. The event will culminate in a happy hour on July 12 when winners of the hackathon will be named.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

"The Marijuana Show" returns to Denver, $20M in startup investments at stake

The Marijuana Show is readying for its third season, holding Denver auditions between May 23 and May 25 to help the next great "Ganjapreneurs" bring their ideas into reality. This year up to $20 million in investment capital is at stake, and Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Recordings, will serve as a guest mentor on the show. 

"After the unparalleled success of The Marijuana Show during seasons one and two, we are scouring the country to find ground-breaking and original business ideas to introduce to the cannabis industry," explains producer Wendy Robbins. "With this season capping out at $20 million in investment capital, the level of competition this time will far surpass previous seasons and set a new bar for our contestants."

The show is the first to serve as a "Shark Tank for Ganjaprenuers," creators say. In the first two seasons, it’s already helped raise $18 million in investments for innovators in the cannabis industry. The series is holding auditions in 50 markets in the U.S. Judges will choose up to 15 entrepreneurs and four accredited inventors and mentors to participate in a three-day Bud Camp that will culminate in pitches to a panel of accredited investors. 

Previously the show has resulted in creating the first cannabis-powered car, a major Hollywood "stoner comedy," a cannabis advertising agency and a line of CBD-infused dog bones to the market.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

PlainSmart offers DNA testing to aid in weight loss

In the never-ending quest to help people manage and lose weight, there is a slew of options. Now Denver's PlainSmart is offering a new tool, DNA testing.

The company is using DNA testing to help understand how genetic markers can impact metabolisms. "DNA testing identifies a body's strengths and weaknesses in processing nutrients, as well as personal requirements for physical activity. When we look at a client's genetic profile, we can interpret the markers and understand how their body is able (or not able) to metabolize foods," said Kassandra Gyimesi, RDN, PlainSmart's clinic director. "The report guides a lifetime nutrition plan that is medically sound, realistic and created solely for each individual's needs and lifestyle. With these diagnostic tools, we can pinpoint a client's metabolic rate, body composition and how his or her body responds to macronutrients -- focusing on unique needs for optimal weight-loss success."

The company claims that genetic testing, accomplished through a cheek swab, can show a genetic profile that reveals how a person processes proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and how to properly proportion them within a nutrition plan; ideal intensity and duration of physical activity for weight, energy and overall health; and a person's tendency to develop and maintain healthy eating habits.

The testing can help develop a nutritional and exercise program for PlainSmart's clients and is just one of its tools. It also uses a body composition analysis (BCA), meetings with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and provides a customized plan for its customers that starts at $295.

"Weight loss is a personal journey.  And, nothing is as personal as DNA, so we recognized it was time to bring them together for the best possible weight-management outcome," said Jonathan Harding, president of PlainSmart.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Denver launches civic innovation accelerator

Colorado's municipal governments -- as many across the country -- remain cash-strapped, there's a need to make more out of less, harnessing the power of entrepreneurs and innovators to find low-cost solutions to civic issues and needs. That's where the Governmental Entrepreneurship Leadership Accelerator enters the picture.

The accelerator, a partnership of the City and County of Denver, Silicon Flatirons, University of Colorado Law School Dean Phil Weiser and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, gave five law students a chance to work with nine Denver employees to address civic issues over a 12-week fellowship. The fellowship will conclude July 21 with a pitch fest attended by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock at Galvanize.

"To our knowledge, no other city or government has collaborated with a university for an accelerator program like this one before," says Courtney Law, communications director with the city's Department of Finance.

The pilot program will build on Blackstone's other work to support startups through its Blackstone LaunchPad and Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network. Its charitable arm, through the foundation has committed more than $40 million to such efforts since 2010.

Participants will work to address homeless transportation solutions, developing a retail regulatory framework, providing Internet access for low income individuals and increasing access to composting services. They'll be joined by mentors and guest speakers locally and from across the country to learn about and test entrepreneurial solutions to civic problems.

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is supporting the pilot with a $75,000 grant. Silicon Flatirons will use the grant to run the pilot program.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Linux Foundation's MesosCon coming to Denver

Apache Mesos is the data center management system that's running everything from Siri to eBay, to CERN and a host of other technologies.The Linux Foundation will host MesosCon, a conference about Apache Mesos, at the Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center on June 1-2.

The conference is focussed on users and developers and is hosted to share and learn about the project, which was originally developed at the University of California Berkeley. Sessions over the two-day conference will focus on the Mesos core, the ecosystem that's developed around the project and related technologies.

This year's keynote speakers include Dr. Ken Birman, professor of computer science at Cornell University, and Matei Zaharia, CTO of Databricks, creator of Apache Spark and assistant professor of computer science at MIT. In all the conference will have more than 50 sessions and will feature talks from representatives from Netflix, Uber and Twitter.

Birman's keynote will focus on why the Internet of Things has been hard to integrate with cloud computing. "I'll start by describing work Cornell has done over the past few years on creating a cloud platform to host 'smart power grid' applications," Birman says. In this pursuit the school has developed new rack-scale management solutions for round the clock applications, real-time storage solutions and replication of information with ultra-fast updates -- all of which is open-source.

The conference will include an evening reception, sponsor technical showcase and a hackathon sponsored by Cisco. The prize and focus of the hackathon have yet to be named. The Linux Foundation is enabling mass innovation through open source software. The full schedule of sessions can be viewed here.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Prime Health Innovation Summit returns to Denver

The Prime Health Innovation Summit brings together thought leaders from around the country to address innovations in health and healthcare from apps to new digital technologies. To be held at the Colorado Convention Center May 16-17, the 2016 summit will feature more than 40 national leaders in healthcare innovation. Organizers anticipate that more than 1,000 will attend the conference; the 2014 event drew roughly 200 attendees. 

"Achieving interoperability, providing quality care with good outcomes, ensuring patient and provider satisfaction, and managing chronic diseases are all top concerns for the healthcare system, which is why we've created a series of collaborative discussions that will address each of these concerns at the summit," according to a statement from the Prime Health Collaborative. The event will provide a forum for participants from digital health ecosystems across the country to share ideas and discuss best practices.

Healthcare leaders like Joe Sowell, the vice president of corporate development and innovation strategy at HCA, and Gary Loveman, the executive vice president at Anthem and the president of Healthagen, will be in attendance. One session will feature a discussion on the innovations that the healthcare system needs with Ashley Simmons, director of innovation at the Florida Hospital System and Joe Sammen of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved, and others. Another on building digital healthcare models includes Adam Brickman of Omada Health and Matt Sopich of myStrength.

The collaborative also will showcase the results of its efforts. "We'll be offering a public demonstration of Prime Health Qualify, a first-of-its-kind tool that will allow digital health companies to gain traction in the healthcare system by helping them demonstrate clinical efficacy. Prime Health Collaborate, an online collaborative platform built in partnership with Salesforce, will also be demoed at the summit to encourage members of other regional ecosystems to join our community of digital health innovators," the organization's statement explains.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Innovate for Good 2016 challenges Denver to empower youth with up to $250K

Rose Community Foundation has announced its Innovate for Good 2016 challenge. This year, the organization is calling for people to answer the following question: What idea could you bring to life to empower youth to make the community better?

"We believe Denver's youth can do great things," says Lisa Robinson, Rose Community Foundation trustee and chair of the Innovate for Good Committee. "And, through the Innovate for Good project, we are thrilled to give them a voice and the resources to help make our community even better."

The challenge not only asks what can empower youth in the city, it asks youth between 13 and 18 to propose ideas. Adults, working as equal partners with youth, can submit their ideas through through the foundation's website. Submissions must be in by May 31 and the submission process requires applicants to answer a series of questions and submit a video, up to a minute long, about their team's idea. Finalists will be announced in August and awardees will be selected in September.

"More than ever, as the greater Denver community continues to grow, empowering youth to inspire change can have great benefits for the next generation," Robinson says. "They have the energy, talent and potential to share innovative ideas, and we felt it was time to tap directly into their experiences and perspective." 

In all, the foundation will award up $250,000 in grants to implement winning ideas. The foundation says it is looking for innovative Denver-based projects that can make an impact within a year.

The foundation launched the Innovation for Good Challenge in 2015. It had more than 400 applicants and awarded grants to 10 proposals.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Trustpilot to open new office, add 40 jobs in Denver

Trustpilot, an online ratings and review company based in Denmark, opened an office in Denver on May 1. The company will hire at least 40 people to handle its customer growth in western U.S.

Trustpilot offers a TrustScore of businesses based on recent reviews of a company’s services or offerings. The company says it has more than 19 million consumer reviews from and that its online community is growing by 10,000 users a day. They have produced 120,000 businesses and is live in 27 companies.

"Since establishing a U.S. presence less than three years ago, Trustpilot has enjoyed a tremendous growth trajectory here, stemming from the increasing expectation for trust and transparency between businesses and their customers," explains Fred Mather, Trustpilot's general manager, Americas.

The company says it chose Denver over other cities "because of its growing technology industry, its reputation as a hub of innovation and strong local talent pool." Trustpilot plans on hiring everything from account executive to sales managers for the new Denver office. The new positions will expand the company’s workforce by roughly 20 percent.

The office will be based in the new WeWork space in LoDo and will be one of the first tenants in the space. The company says it plans to search for its own office space and to sign a permanent lease later this year.

Trustpilot says its hires in Denver will receive the same benefits it offers at all of its employees around the world. Among them: sit-stand desks, catered weekly lunches and breakfasts, extracurricular activities, paid family leave and generous paid time off.

The company lists open positions on its website.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Colorado Enterprise Fund celebrates Small Business Week

May kicks off with both the national and Colorado versions of Small Business Week, a celebration of craftspeople, entrepreneurs and innovators. From April 30 to May 7, the Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF) is supporting the efforts of entrepreneurs with multiple events.

The nonprofit, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary of supporting small businesses in the state, is hosting a Startup Financing for the First-Time Entrepreneur workshop at the Commons on Champa on May 3 starting at 1:30 p.m. The workshop will highlight how three local businesses, Knotty Tie Co., Tom and Chee and Let Em Have It Hair Salon, have benefited from CEF loans. Registration is encouraged as there are only 200 seats available.

In addition, CEF is partnering with the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) on additional National Small Business Week events. Among them are the Denver Business Resource Fair on May 2 and the Lenders Panel Discussion on May 5.

The CEF events are just a smattering of what's going on in and around Denver for Small Business Week. For the full calendar, visit www.coloradosmallbizweek.com.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

University of Denver launches one-year cybersecurity master's program

Some estimates show that there are roughly 12,000 cybersecurity job openings in Colorado. The University of Denver is stepping in with a new accelerated MS program in cybersecurity at a 50 percent discount aimed at helping fill some of these positions.

"The average salary for a cybersecurity engineer is roughly $170,000 and very few master's programs in cybersecurity currently exist, this unique degree offering is an attractive option for those wishing to switch careers and improve their earning potential," according to a statement from the University of Denver.

The master's program is being offered through the University of Denver's Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science and classes will begin in the fall. While a computer science background isn't required for the program it says that strong analytical and quantitative skills are required for the program. The university also is offering bridge courses in computer science to help those without a background in computer science.

Still it's difficult to tell just how many positions are really available in the field in Colorado. Erik Mitisek, executive director of the university's nascent Project X-ITE, recently told The Denver Post that Colorado Springs may have the highest concentration of cybersecurity experts in the country. He added that it's hard to know because many employees in the field may have special clearances or can't talk about the programs they're working on.

Project X-ITE launched last fall as a collaborative initiative between DU's Engineering/Computer Science, Law and Business Schools to promote entrepreneurship at the university and across Colorado. Project X-ITE hosted its first event, the Cybersecurity Summit at the Cable Center on April 19. "We anticipate hosting additional cybersecurity-focused events through Project X-ITE that students from the cybersecurity master's program will be able to organize, lead and/or attend," JB Holston, Dean of the Ritchie School.

Holston says they anticipate having up to 20 students per cohort beginning the fall. "This will be an ongoing offering," he adds.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

NSR, Kickfurther partner to boost data-driven investments

Denver-based NSR Invest is partnering with Kickfurther to boost the latter company's financing marketplace. Under the partnership, NSR's data-driven analysis tools will help Kickfurther's clients choose offers.

"This partnership has the potential to add tens of millions of dollars into our crowdfunding ecosystem," says Kickfurther CEO Sean De Clercq. "We admire the team at NSR Invest and their leadership as pioneers in FinTech. We're incredibly excited to work together to find more ways for all our customers to grow their money."

NSR connects investors and borrowers with plug and play investment opportunities. It provides services for individuals, wealth managers, family offices and institutions. Kickfurther will add another opportunity for investment on the NSR platform.

"Kickfurther provides our clients with a differentiated opportunity to access investment opportunities that provide enhanced yield," says NSR CEO Bo Brustkern. "Kickfurther is a fast-growing platform in the inventory financing space providing attractive short term yield opportunities on a fractionalized basis for both retail and accredited investors. This is an excellent fit for our 5,000-strong user base and aligns beautifully with our mandate."

Kickfurther helps young companies and startups finance inventory orders on a short-term basis. Company officials say its offers represent an average of 30.04 percent annualized growth.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Everyday Colorado wants your opinion on health and the environment

The Colorado School of Public Health is seeking comments from Coloradans about the environment, public health and community development. To do so, the school and its graduate students have partnered with the Tri-County Health Department and public health professionals across the state to launch Everyday Colorado, a new website to gauge public opinion on the issues. Organizers are using #EverydayCO to promote the site and survey tool.

"The Everyday Colorado interactive online tool asks participants to identifying values, rank concerns and offers the opportunity to learn more about emerging issues that may affect the health and well-being of Colorado communities," explains CSU Professor Jennifer Peel, co-director of the project.

The project aims to investigate current and emerging environmental health issues across Colorado, organizers say. As such they're encouraging people to take the survey and share the site with others across the state.

"The success of this project relies on people sharing their stories with us to inform how we do business. We want to know about the everyday concerns and priorities of people in the diverse communities of Colorado, from Denver to Silverton to Sterling and everywhere in between," adds Tom Butts, deputy director of the Tri-County Health Department and project co-director.

Professor Jill Litt, who teaches this class at Colorado School of Public Health and is a co-director on the project, says, "The student involvement, through community engagement and developing content about environmental policies and action steps, is a critical component of this community-based learning project."

Organizers will collect information in the coming weeks. They plan to publish a comprehensive report based on the results later in 2016, "highlighting local and professional perspectives about Coloradans' values and necessary action steps to prepare the state for emerging challenges."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

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